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Okay, I retitled this post (no changes to the body of the post) to get a little more attention. The "Mo app" doesn't come until the last paragraph, so be patient.

Interesting...for me, the lack of depth I perceive in the BOM is a major reason why I find it hard to believe. I'd be interested in hearing more on how you think the BOM displays depth.

I've always thought that the Lamanites, who are rarely mentioned, fit the bill. On the one hand the Nephites present them in characatured ways, in other ways we get all these fleeting glimpses of a culture that clearly is advanced and perhaps even more robust than the Nephite one. The story of Ammon and company are always extremely intriguing to me.

The other example are the Gaddianton robbers. Clearly what Moroni says of them is at least partially wrong. (i.e. when they are "defeated" it is clear that they simply change their strategies and are still within the society) That's faciniating to me - the places where what the narrator is conscious of and what clearly is going on are so at odds.

I suppose "depth" can be cultural (as in Clark's examples), literary (chiasmus, etc.), or related to sources alluded to in the text (the plates of Ether that Moroni says he used as a source or the large stone of Coriantumr in the book of Omni). But objectively establishing these examples as "real depth" as opposed to "created depth" requires external evidence (artifacts or other ancient texts) that is, for the most part, stubbornly resistant to discovery.

Right now I am having to stretch myself to teach a grade 10 English class that no one else could take. I think the concept of depth mentioned is what I have been trying to get (unsuccessfully?) get across to my class. Successful stories always seem to describe something bigger than what they directly mention. For me, Clark’s take on the BOM is interesting because I find the allusions and indirect references to Nephite and Laminite society capable of producing a coherent, untold story. I find a similar thing in Tolkein’s books. Like all great works do, he took the time to make sure the underlying foundations were consistent. I think the only way to do this is to completely map out one’s subtext. Poor books fail to do this. Poor movies can’t even make the plot consistent. Of course historical descriptions make a coherent sub-text all but impossible to avoid. Perhaps this is part of the reason some portions of certain history books “feel” wrong. They create a sub text that either isn’t consistent or isn’t intelligible.

Chris, good points. You wrote, Like all great works do, he took the time to make sure the underlying foundations were consistent. I think the only way to do this is to completely map out one’s subtext.

I agree with you that this is what makes Tolkien remarkable (and what aggravated him because his friend CS Lewis was pumping out books left and right while JRR was left brooding over the unseen legends that inform his actual story).

But think about your statement in the context of Joseph Smith. Notably, he did not take his time with it (translated straight through in a counted number of days), and he did not map out his subtexts (completely or otherwise). And yet the text has amazing internal consistency and lacks internal contradictions that would expose quick novel writing.

Anon, you unfortunately have not taken the time to read into the BoM or into FARMS-type apologetics if you find the BoM lacking in depth. It truly is there, I can attest to that. Dave mentioned chiasmus in passing, and that is something (to my mind) that is insurmountable for critics of the BoM, but there is much much more than that. Everything that is reported in the BoM takes place in a cultural setting where the people retained certain religious, familial, linguistic, and cultural traits from their old-world cousins in the House of Israel. This shines through in the narrative for those who are aware of what the text is communicating. Thus, King Benjamin's speech is much more than just an old man standing on a tower. Rather, it fits right into semitic patterns of worship and tradition, coming at the right time of year, in the right physical setting, and with the right lawgiving and atonement subject matter. Or take the trial of Abinadi: just an old crazy man getting burned at the stake, right? Nope--this trial conforms very closely to legal norms required in ancient law, from procedures to religious aspects that Joseph Smith simply could not have known about. These are all things that reinforce the "real depth" of which Dave is speaking.

I personally am of the opinion that some of the things that create the verisimilitude that Clark mentions and that Dave also mentioned are also aspects of "real depth," because I do not believe that JS made up the BoM. But since we haven't found those artifacts yet for some of those things, as Dave points out, we can chalk the aesthetic experience that the BoM provides up to such apparent depth (even though it is not the result of JS putting in his time or mapping out subtexts/plots b/c he simply didn't do this). Thus, what Clark points out is right on: there is a huge world behind the printed words and the straightforward stories that they convey, and this world is bursting through the lines throughout much of the BoM.

Ditto on Lamanites and Gadianton robbers. Think also of the mutli-ethnic world in which these people lived (people from Asia and other "natives" being mixed in with those that we know about (Jaredites, Nephites, Mulekites) whom God led over from the Middle East). It really does provide the depth that Dave praises in Tolkien.

The question is: could Tolkien have written the BoM?

john fowles, please don't presume to know what I have or have not taken the time to read.

I have no doubt that when you look for them, you can find all sorts of parallels in the BOM with all sorts of ancient practices. It's also full of anachronisms. There is plenty of literature out there to help you find examples of both.

However, when I read the Old Testament, or New Testament or Tolkien, or any serious work of history, the historical depth is obvious. Alusions or are constantly dropped to other people outside the story, there are huge numbers of characters, often with ambiguous motives, and I just overall get a sense of a different place and time. I don't need to read a guidebook to see this, it's obvious. Sorry, I just don't get that sense from the BOM.

Anon, I'd say the BoM displays rather inconsistent depth readings as one moves through the text.This, to me, is one of the puzzles of the BoM.

On the one hand, it offers a number of "depth indicators" which suggest ancient roots and which Joseph would not likely have incorporated intentionally given his limited familiarity with, for example, Hebrew poetry. The counterargument is that years of reading and hearing the KJV might lead a person to unconsciously compose in a style that reflects Hebrew styles incorporated in the Bible, especially if one is trying to write "biblically."

On the other hand, the BoM is also laced with anachronisms which suggest 19th century origins. The counterargument to this is that Joseph simply incorporated some modern material in the ancient translation. Since the Church has no model of translation it is willing to affirm (Joseph himself consistently refused to give even the barest of descriptions of his translation process), this is a difficult area to discuss in any meaningful detail.

In any case, the chiasmus argument, that this one "depth" aspect makes the case for real as opposed to created depth, is not well articulated given the extent that some Mormons tend to rely on it to support the "BoM as an ancient document" position.

Here is a quote from a post on cronaca.com. The post is about the faked Dan Rather memos and forgeries in the art world, but it also sums up how I feel about most BOM apologetics.

For after having given a listen to the memos' defenders...the picture that emerges is that while the memos might have been able to have been typed on an early-'70s typewriter, their overall appearance is both anomalous for the era and disturbingly consistent with the norms of our own.

This is, of course, a classic red flag for art historians on the lookout for fakes: not just the anachronistic detail, but that more fundamental anachronism arising from the forger's inability to recognize (and suppress) the impress of his own time. And when I read attempts to explain how the memos could be genuine, they sound just like a tenaciously deluded owner of a painting, purportedly the work of some great old master, who points to one feature after another that can be paralleled in the master's oeuvre, while failing to see how they add up to a whole that is entirely modern in conception.


Yes, apologists of all stripes tend to fall into that pattern. I suppose critics exhibit the same bias in the opposite direction. Say, Anon, did you find the Cronaca site off my link list (under Science & Philosophy) or on your own? It was one of my early favorites for antiquities new items.

Sorry, Dave, I'm pretty sure I found Cronaca through some other site (but I don't remeber which one). And I agree with you about apologists of all stripes, although there are still some careful thinkers among the ranks of both believers and critics who try to not let their biases overcome them. At the end of the day I guess everyone has to decide for himself what seems most reasonable.

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